COMFRC Safety Rates Continue to Improve

FRCE workers make final preparations and safety checks prior to extracting an H-53 main gear box by crane. (U.S. Navy photos by David Marriott)

 

Safety rates at Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers (COMFRC) are at an all-time low, with fiscal 2018 slated to be 20-percent safer than last year.

The reduced total case incident rate (TCIR) and days away, restricted, transfer (DART) rates reflect the command’s increased safety awareness and the implementation of its safety management system (SMS), said Mitch Bauman, COMFRC director for safety, quality and regulatory compliance.

The COMFRC enterprise has a TCIR rate of 2.12 and a DART rate of 1.28 through the first three quarters of fiscal 2018—the top milestone in safety metrics in COMFRC history.

COMFRC’s rates are lower than the national Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) injury rates for aerospace depot maintenance operations, which have a TCIR rate of 3.4 and a DART rate of 2.1.

Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) artisan Kurt Vasquez wears a bump cap while working on an aircraft. Using bump caps has reduced head injuries significantly at FRCE. (U.S. Navy photos by David Marriott)

According to the BLS, TCIR is the generally accepted measurement of the rate of workplace injuries and illnesses within a given population in the U.S. and is tracked by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). TCIR is calculated based on the number of mandatory reported OSHA-recordable injuries and illnesses that occur each year at any company or workplace.

DART is another safety metric reported to OSHA to help employers determine how many workplace injuries and illnesses required employees to miss work, perform restricted work activities or transfer to another job within a calendar year.

In 2014, COMFRC established an SMS program for all commands to build a mindful safety culture. Through monthly area safety audits and leadership engagement, hazards are identified and mitigation implemented.

All intermediate maintenance sites and depots are implementing the SMS across the enterprise, with an expected completion date of Oct. 1, 2020, Bauman explained.

SMS is successful, in part, because of leadership commitment and employee engagement in the SMS process, Bauman said. “While production is important, safety, quality, schedule and cost are the priorities, in that order,” he said.

Depot Initiatives

Fleet Readiness Center East (FRCE) looked beyond the numbers, conducted a trend analysis of injury data and made some changes that have reduced workplace injuries significantly, Bauman said.

Many injuries fell into two major categories—head injuries from bumping into aircraft leading edges and panels, and cutting hands from handling various materials, explained Amy Morgan, FRCE safety, quality and regulatory compliance department head.

After researching preventive measures, they discovered bump caps—protective headgear designed to protect the wearer from minor head bumps and lacerations—have been successful at other aviation facilities. FRCE then implemented a mandatory policy that bump caps must be worn when within 5 feet of any aircraft, reducing the head injury rate to nearly zero.

A similar policy required using protective gloves for all aircraft line and material handling work, with a significant drop in hand injuries because of cuts, Morgan said.

FRCE also requires a 10-hour OSHA training course for supervisors.

Artisans overhaul the fuselage of a Marine Corps Harrier on the FRCE AV-8 production line. In addition to the mandatory wear of bump caps, FRCE instituted a requirement for artisans to wear protective gloves. The two safety measures have greatly reduced head and hand injuries. (U.S. Navy photos by David Marriott)

“We have received really good feedback from supervisors that have taken the class that it was truly an eye-opener to the hazards in the facility that they were unaware of until the training,” Morgan said.

FRCE has a partnership with the OSHA office in Raleigh, North Carolina, the International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers, the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Association of Aeronautical Examiners to “focus on reducing and preventing worker exposure to prevalent aircraft maintenance hazards and heat illnesses, as well as hazards unique to the Navy aircraft maintenance environment.”

FRC Southeast (SE) and Southwest (SW) are making similar strides in improving workplace safety.

FRCSE in Jacksonville, Florida, won CNO’s Activity Excellence in Shore Safety Award for 2016 in the large industrial category. The award recognizes efficiency of operations through safety, using an aggressive SMS, as well as new ideas in mishap prevention.

FRCSW’s efforts in enhancing safety began with certification and conformance to Occupational Health and Safety Management System 18001:2007, an international standard that provides a framework to identify, control and decrease the risks associated with health and safety within the workplace, as overseen by the command’s SMS.

“Conforming to the international safety standard is a must in striving to improve in the processes of protecting the artisan and government property,” Bauman said.

Gary Younger is a public affairs specialist supporting Commander, Fleet Readiness Centers.